“In the end, we have not accomplished what we’re entitled to; the Catholic Church has not been granted the right to evangelize and spread without fear of losing its religious freedom,” (retired Archbishop Pedro) Meurice said in a recent interview.
In the year since President Fidel Castro has been ill and out of the public eye, analysts and religious leaders point to the fate of a popular Catholic magazine and civics workshops in the western city of Pinar del Rio as dramatic examples of tighter church control.
It’s good to see people in other parts of the country besides South Florida get an opportunity to learn what Castro is about. The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman’s website has the story of a pastor and Cuban exile who is now helping others seeking asylum in the United States:
In 1963, (now 68-year-old pastor Feliberto) Pereira, along with many other clergymen, was forced to take a government job and accept the ideals of atheism and communism. “They said that religion was the opium of the nation, and pastors and priests did nothing to help the nation.”
Pereira was working as a junior high school teacher when the Cuban government offered him a principal’s position in 1966 under the condition he proclaim himself an atheist.
“I said, ‘No, I don’t need to be the principal. I’ve known Jesus, and I will never reject my faith or Bible,’ ” he said. “They told me that I would have to face the consequences.”
Castro’s regime was persistent in its pursuit, he said. Authorities told him that he would make a great communist.
“They gave me 15 days to take classes on socialism and communism and basically to be brainwashed,” he said. “I read the philosophy of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Lenin. Then, after those 15 days, the teacher came again with papers because he thought I was ready to reject the church.”
That is when Pereira nearly lost his life during the life-changing argument in his office.
After refusing to sign paperwork denouncing his faith, Pereira was forced to do two and a half years of hard labor in a sugar cane field where he was constantly fatigued and malnourished. Then, he spent a year and a half in another camp where, he said, he often worked with a rifle pointed at his back.
At any moment, Pereira could have left the camp had he chosen to denounce his faith, but he said the tribulations fortified his belief in God.
As powerful as Castro may be in Cuba, there is Someone who is more powerful than he.